Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Twenty-Seven

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Happy Thursday, my Cosmere Chickens! I hope you’re all doing well, and are excited to jump into another Navani chapter with Alice and me. This week we’re looking at a lot of relationships. Navani and Dalinar, Navani and Jasnah, Sebarial and Palona, Jasnah and Wit, Dalinar and his sons (both real and surrogate)… there’s a lot going on in regards to interpersonal connections. We’ve also got some more Cosmere tidbits in the epigraph (as usual), and some speculation on Nightblood. Join us, won’t you?

Reminder: We’ll be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now. If you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of the Stormlight Archive (including Edgedancer and Dawnshard as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.

In this week’s discussion we also discuss some things from Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell in the Front Matter section and a little about Nightblood (from Warbreaker) in the Cosmere Connections section, so if you haven’t read those, best to give those sections a pass.

Heralds: Jezrien, Herald of Kings. Windrunners. Protecting/Leading. Role: King.

Nalan (Nale), Just/Confident, Herald of Justice. Skybreakers. Role: Judge

L: Very odd choices for Heralds for this chapter. At first I was inclined to think that maybe they were representative of the people Navani was closest to in the chapter, namely Dalinar and Jasnah. I suppose Navani herself is exhibiting aspects of leadership, though justice is a harder sell.

A: Honestly, the only solid reason I can think of for Nale is that for a few minutes, Navani’s thoughts dwell on our resident Skybreaker, Szeth. He is going to be important on Dalinar’s mission, so… maybe? There’s also that bit where Navani is coming up with ways to keep people orderly and cooperative in the tower; would that be relevant? It’s actually more about leading than about making laws, but that’s all I’ve got. Unless Sebarial is a Skybreaker-in-waiting!

L: Ah yeah, that’s true, Szeth does sort of make an appearance, doesn’t he? That would make sense.

Icon: Fabrial gemstone (Navani)

Epigraph:

That said, the most worrying thing I discovered in this was the wound upon the Spiritual Realm where Ambition, Mercy, and Odium clashed—and Ambition was destroyed. The effects on the planet Threnody have been… disturbing.

L: Hoo boy! Lots of interesting stuff here. Threnody is the planet where Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell takes place. (This is, in my opinion, still one of the coolest titles Brandon’s come up with.) We know very, very little about Mercy, other than that it still exists. Nor do we know much for certain about whatever strange effects Ambition’s destruction have wrought on the planetary system. But whatever they are, that certainly doesn’t bode well for Odium’s plans to destroy more of the shards…

A: It’s a fair guess that the shades on Threnody are a result of the conflicting Investitures in that system, but as you say, we know so little about any of it. The first we heard of Mercy was two epigraphs ago, when Harmony said, “Mercy worries me.” Talk about insufficient information! WoB tells us that there is no Shard resident on Threnody, so we know Mercy didn’t stay there, but that’s about it.

Oh, speaking of Threnody, we might as well remind everyone that Nazh is from there—and intends to stay as far away from there as he can. How he got off the planet is still unknown, I think; there’s no perpendicularity there.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Navani
WHERE: Urithiru
WHEN: 1175.4.3.4 (about two weeks after Shallan and Adolin’s departure, and about a week after Kaladin’s last chapter)

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

Navani sees Dalinar and Jasnah (and little Gav) off, on their way to war. She has a discussion with Sebarial in which she sends him to restore order in the warcamps on the Shattered Plains, then discovers a strange room with a to-scale model of Urithiru in it. On her way out, the mysterious spanreed blinks, indicating a new message from her strange corresponder…

Overall Reactions

“Integrity doesn’t stop men from killing, Brightness,” Sebarial said. “It just makes them use different justifications.”

“Do you really want to draw a moral equivalency between wholesale conquest and resisting the Voidbringer invasion? Do you genuinely believe that a man of integrity is the same as a murderer?”

L: Well, isn’t that a fascinating philosophical dilemma. I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as Navani seems to believe it is, though… considering that this was the singers’ world to begin with, and the humans are invaders.

A: I don’t believe we know enough yet to call the humans “invaders.” They were brought to Roshar from Ashyn by Honor, as far as we know, so I don’t think that constitutes an “invasion.” As for what happened afterward, there are a lot of assumptions floating around, but we really don’t know. (And because the assumptions are so obvious and easily made, I tend to mistrust them.) Who initiated hostilities? Why? How? We don’t know those answers yet—and in any case, I’m not a fan of holding all humanity responsible for what their ancestors from 7000 years ago may or may not have done.

L: Well, we as readers don’t know the facts, this is true. But this is the knowledge the characters have, what they currently believe to be the truth.

Reputations were banners also. Jasnah had crafted a distinctive persona. People halfway around the world knew about her. Dalinar had done the same thing. Not as deliberately, but with equal effect.

But what banner did Navani want to fly?

L: And here we have the theme of Navani’s entire character arc for this book.

A: Indeed. This chapter, much like the Prologue, gives us a micro version of Navani’s arc.

A different life, one that she wanted rather than one she thought she should want. Yet here she found herself doing the same things as before. Running a kingdom for a man who was too grand to be contained by simple day-to-day tasks.

A: There’s a huge contrast, of course; Dalinar is at least aware of her efforts and appreciates them, rather than sneering at her for the things she doesn’t do. He’s never treated her as abominably as Gavilar did, and he doesn’t make arrangements without telling her while expecting her to just take care of it. In Urithiru, she has the respect and authority she never really achieved in Kholinar. She is good at running a kingdom, too—though in my opinion she still needs to learn to delegate more; the queen shouldn’t need to review sanitation reports unless there’s an actual problem that needs her authority to mitigate. The increase in random fights is an interesting example; she spends some time looking at traffic patterns to find ways to mitigate the crowding, rather than increase the guards, which will probably reduce the actual issues rather than merely intimidate people. She is good with people and problem-solving, but she’s also good at so much more.

L: She’s treating the cause rather than the symptom. Kaladin and Lirin would likely approve.

Relationships and Romances

He reached down to cup her cheek. … The honor guard stood tall and tried to ignore Dalinar and Navani. Even this little sign of affection wasn’t particularly Alethi. That was what they told themselves, anyway. The stoic warriors. Not ruined by emotion.

L: I really love how affectionate they are with one another, especially since it’s kind of taboo in their culture. They love one another so much that they’re past the point of caring what the others think, and I find that incredibly lovely.

A: And the snark in me loves the way they make everyone else uncomfortable. “Oh, just pretend you didn’t see that, everyone…”

After that, the two of them went to meet the governess who had brought little Gav, with his trunks of things. The young boy—trying hard not to look too eager—saluted Dalinar.

“It is a big duty,” Dalinar told him, “going to war for the first time. Are you ready?”

“I am, sir!” the child said. “I’ll fight well!”

L: Oh my goodness. This precious little child. After everything he’s been through, I’m happy to see him here, excited about something (even if that something is going to war… it does make sense for an Alethi child, though).

A: It makes a ton of sense—and now that we know how things turn out, I’m really glad he goes with Dalinar! Can you imagine the impact on the child if he were still in the tower when the Fused take it over?

L: Oh storms, I hadn’t considered that.

“He’s young to be going.”

“I know,” Dalinar said. “But I owe him this. He feels terrified to be left behind again in a palace while…” He left it unsaid.

L: MY HEART.

Navani knew there was more. Things Dalinar had said about how he’d been angry when younger, and had prevented Adolin and Renarin from spending time with him when they wanted to.

L: Interesting. I do wonder if Dalinar is subconsciously trying to atone for his mistakes with Adolin and Renarin by being a good father to Gav… but. (And this is a big but!) He’s still got Adolin and Renarin, and isn’t exactly doing a fantastic job of atoning with them personally, as is evident by his interactions with Adolin earlier in the book. Maaaaaaybe concentrate on mending the relationships you’ve already got, Dalinar, before adding another one on…

A: While I agree that he needs to work on better communication and interaction with his sons, I’m glad he’s not putting off Gavinor’s needs until he fixes those relationships first. He’s been very supportive of Renarin, and for now Adolin is out of reach. But Gavinor is right here, and he’s a little boy who will grow up all too soon. He needs this, and he needs it now.

Oh, and yes, he’s totally trying to make up for his mistakes with his sons.

“No Wit?” Navani asked.

“He promised to meet me in Azir,” Jasnah said. “He vanishes sometimes, and won’t grace my questions with answers. Not even mocking ones.”

“There is something odd about that one, Jasnah.”

“You have no idea, Mother.”

L: This really makes me wonder just how much Wit has told Jasnah about… everything.

A: This made me laugh so hard—especially on a reread. We know he hasn’t told her everything, but he’s told her enough to know that he’s older than dirt and basically immortal. Even this early, it’s fairly obvious that he’s told her a lot of things no one else knows. Something odd about that one, indeed!

“Storms,” Jasnah said under her breath. “Mother, are we really so awkward that we embrace like teenagers meeting a boy for the first time?”

“I don’t want to ruin your image,” Navani said.

“A woman can hug her mother, can’t she? My reputation won’t come crashing down because I showed affection.”

L: As someone who has had a… somewhat troubled relationship from time to time with my own mother, I can completely understand this. Sometimes you do genuinely want to show affection, but when there seems like there’s a wall of past experiences and misunderstandings in your way, it can be hard to navigate the “right” way to do so.

A: As someone who had a good relationship with her mother all her life, I cannot relate—but I can still understand it. It just makes me wonder even more about Jasnah’s childhood. Navani said once that Jasnah refused to be mothered, and there are strong indications that she was a difficult child to raise. But there’s also that “illness” thing, and we have no idea what Navani’s role in that situation might have been. Navani hasn’t given us any hints about it that I recall.

L: Yeah, I’m going to be really interested to see Jasnah’s flashbacks when we eventually get them. I really hope that Navani wasn’t completely hands-off, or unaccepting (like Lirin) of whatever Jasnah was going through. That would make me very sad, as I do like Navani a great deal.

“The quickest changes in history often happen during times of strife, and these are important moments. But you’re important too. To me. Thank you. For always being you, despite the rise of kingdoms and the fall of peoples. I don’t think you can understand how much your constant strength means to me.” …

…that moment together—seeing through the mask—became more precious than a hundred awkward embraces.

L: This is so sweet. This whole chapter seems to have a theme of mending bridges worn down by time. Dalinar trying to atone for his mistakes with his sons… Jasnah trying to bridge the gap between herself and her mother…

“If she took me seriously, Brightness, I’d be a married man.” He sighed. “I can’t decide if she thinks me unworthy of her, or if somehow she’s decided a highprince shouldn’t marry someone of her station.”

L: Orrrrr she could think that “marriage” is largely a meaningless concept and changes nothing about the relationship except for legal purposes. Just sayin’…

A: She could, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Palona. There’s an undercurrent, and always has been.

“If a man takes nothing in his life seriously, it makes a woman wonder. What is she? Another joke? Another whim?”

“Surely she knows her value to me, Brightness.”

“Surely there is no problem in making it clear.” Navani patted him on the arm. “It is difficult not to question your value to someone who seems to value nothing.

L: Unsurprisingly wise words from Navani. “Hey, Sebarial. Maybe try communicating instead of just assuming things.”

A: I’ve gotta admit that I’ve come to really like Sebarial, but he does have some blind spots. Communicate? Why would he want to start that? Goof.

Bruised and Broken

“I always told myself that when I finished my travels, I’d work diligently to be available to you all. I recognize that family relations need attendant time to…” Jasnah took a deep breath, then pressed her safehand against her forehead. “I sound like a historical treatise, not a person, don’t I?”

L: I adore Jasnah.

A: This was pitch perfect.

Cosmere Connections

Though the sheath to his strange sword had required some physical decorations and disguises, as a Lightweaving wouldn’t stick to it.

L: This doesn’t surprise me. Nightblood consumes Investiture, so it makes sense that any illusion anyone tried to attach to it, would just get “eaten.”

A: The sheath is also made of aluminum, which resists Investiture, so in my opinion, even without Nightblood in it, the sheath wouldn’t accept a Lightweaving.

Geography, History, and Cultures

They had three they could count on. Aladar, Sebarial, and Hatham. Bethab and his wife had fallen into line, which left Ruthar the lone holdout of hostility—the last remnant of Sadeas’s faction against Dalinar.

L: Just taking note of this for future reference…

A: LOL.

…she entered the tower by its broad front gates. The temperature change was immediate, though with these broad gates standing open all day, the inner foyer should have been as cold as the plateau outside.

L: Some of Urithiru’s powers are still active, at least. I can’t wait for the next book, to see what amazing things are now happening with the tower now that the Sibling is awake…

A: Right? It’s been fun to see some of the things that are working, along with all the things that aren’t. And it’s going to be an absolute blast to see what it will do.

Standing in front of that window was an odd structure: a tall stone model of the tower. She’d read about it in the report, but as she approached, she was still surprised by its intricacy. The thing was a good fifteen feet tall, and was divided in two—the halves pulled apart—to give a cross section of the tower. At this scale, floors weren’t even an inch tall, but everything she saw about them was reproduced in intricate detail.

L: We know from later events in the book that this contains one of the nodes. It’s really neat… kind of reminds me of those scaled-down dollhouses you see in the old mansions in so many horror movies.

A: I would really like someone to build this thing for reals. It would be so beautiful.

I also (being me) have to call out the whole thing with the “hidden room.”

“So the rooms were sealed off before the Radiants left?”

“Or,” Falilar said, “they could open and close some other way. When the tower was abandoned, some were already closed, others open.”

“That would explain a lot.” They’d found so many rooms with actual doors—or, the remnants of ones rotted away—that she hadn’t considered that there might be other mechanisms on undiscovered rooms.

A: First of all, I totally do not understand why the old Radiants would have used wooden doors for some rooms, and the fabrial-activated sliding doors for others. Was it only “important” places that had the sliding doors, while ordinary-use rooms had wooden ones so they wouldn’t have to keep going around charging them up? I’d think they would have normally been charged by the Sibling’s power, so that shouldn’t have mattered. However, we know that the Sibling had started to “withdraw” before the Radiants actually left Urithiru. Did they close some of the doors—either to rooms like this with significant artifacts, or those that were merely unused—during those last years, and then put wooden doors up on the rest of them for the sake of privacy? Do all the rooms have fabrial doors, and we’ll find out once everything is functioning? For every cool answer we get, I have more questions.

L: If I’m not misremembering, the fabrial-powered doors needed Radiants to infuse the gemstone to open them, though, didn’t they? So maybe those rooms were the ones specifically needed by Radiants, whereas the mundane wooden door rooms were the ones that all of the other “normal” people in the tower (like servants) would need to use.

A: Oh, but do note the foreshadowing here.

“There was a gemstone embedded in the stone,” Falilar said. “I had him get it out for us to inspect. I intend to have him see if perhaps the rock was somehow intended to slide open to the sides there. If so, it would be a remarkable mechanism.”

A: Which, of course, is exactly what it was. This is such a minor note that it’s really only noticeable on a reread, but it’s going to be exciting to watch Kaladin make use of these doors later.

Humans

Curiously, Jasnah—who often took extra care not to seem weak—almost always used a palanquin these days.

L: I’m pointing this one out because Navani calls it out as strange, and it isn’t explained in the text, so… this makes me suspicious. What’s going on, here?

A: At least partly, I think it’s for the sake of the comparison to Taravangian.

…Jasnah seemed stronger when carried. More confident, in control.

L: So I mean… we know that Jasnah is all about image, and how perception affects treatment. She does things like wearing makeup specifically in order to get the type of treatment that she wants. She’s a master manipulator of perception, and understands how certain actions will affect things. Is that all that’s going on here? Is she only using the palanquin as a way to remind her subjects that she’s in power? Or… is there more?

A: I’m not sure there’s any more to it than exactly what you already said. It’s about perception. The appropriate thing for the Queen is to ride in a palanquin, and she plays it to the hilt. I suspect that part of her insistence on protocol, though, is to set the stage for the things she’s going to do that are… well, not according to protocol. But we’ll talk about those when they happen.

L: Stop crumpling my tinfoil, Alice! (Now that I’ve typed this, I really want this phrase to catch on.)

Sebarial laughed. “How much do you suppose I can pocket before Dalinar would find my thieving too blatant?”

“Stay under five percent,” Navani said.

L: I love this about Navani. She recognizes peoples’ flaws and converts them to strengths, uses them (within limits) instead of trying to force people to change. Case in point:

And if a tool seemed broken at first glance, perhaps you were simply applying it to the wrong task.

L: This is something that’s indicative of a very good leader. We see it in Dalinar, Adolin, and Kaladin, too.

A: It’s certainly one of Navani’s strengths. I’ve heard people complain that she’s manipulative, but I think it’s more that she gives people incentive to work with her for their mutual benefit. Here, Sebarial gets his “four and nine tenths” percent profit, while she gets efficient management and trustworthy oversight in the old warcamps. (It sure would be fun to find out in the next book that he and Palona got married out there while all the crazy was happening back here!)

Badali, a Stoneward, guarded the door. He was an affable older man with a powdery beard and smiling eyes. He bowed to her as she stepped through his newly made door.

L: Hey, another tuckerization! This one is of Paul Badali, one of the jewelry smiths over at Badali Jewelry! (If you’re looking for fantastic jewelry to show your love of Sanderson’s works, head over and check out their page. I’ve been wearing my Windrunner glyph necklace from them for years and I adore it.)

A: I was pretty excited to see Badali here. He and his people do such gorgeous work. I have some of their LOTR pieces as well as Cosmere, and I love every single piece. (And hey, one of the benefits of having a fantasy-loving teen daughter is buying her cool geeky jewelry… just sayin’…)

L: I’d also like to point out that my wedding rings are from Badali. <3

Brilliant Buttresses

Sebarial was staying behind to help administer the tower. And he offered his own set of difficulties. “So,” he said to Navani. “We taking bets on how long it takes Taravangian to knife us in the back?”

L: I adore him. This cracked me up.

A: He’s another one who plays games with perception, and I love watching. He’s so perceptive, and so many people think he’s a fool. Well, they used to; not so sure any more. But his sense of humor hasn’t changed, and he gets me every time!

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, so have fun and remember to be respectful of the opinions of others! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter twenty-eight.

Alice is really excited for y’all to read the next book in the Skyward series in a few more months. It is, in her opinion, an excellent new adventure in the Skyward universe.

Lyndsey has been a Sanderson beta reader since Words of Radiance and is also a fantasy author herself. She’s been doing weekly tie-in videos to the reread and silly cosmere cosplay vids on TikTok, or you can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

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